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World Tour Finals whets the appetite for 2014

After Novak Djokovic's comprehensive defeat of Rafael Nadal in the final of the year-end championships last night, George Barrett looks ahead to tennis in the New Year

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Image: AKA Gilyo.
Image: AKA Gilyo.




As Rafael Nadal sent a backhand long, Novak Djokovic raised his arms in the air to celebrate what was a practical mauling. Last night Djokovic showed the tennis world that whilst he has been second best to his great rival this year, he is still very much up for the challenge of going toe-to-toe with the year-end number 1.

This has been another year of astonishing tennis in our much loved 'golden era'. Maybe we haven't seen as many classics, with no grand slam finals stretching to 5-set thrillers, but the sub-plots have been enthralling.

Without a doubt Rafael Nadal has been the man of 2013. After missing such a long stretch on the side-lines from the second half of 2012 to February this year, coming back to win a record eighth French Open before being crowned the King of New York and regaining the world number one spot is quite something. I don't think I've ever seen a comeback quite like it.


Nadal described 2013 as the most emotional year of his career. Image: mirsasha.
Nadal described 2013 as the most emotional year of his career. Image: mirsasha.



Added to this, Andy Murray became the first Briton to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry, and Roger Federer is looking increasingly like he will be heading to a retirement home in the not too distant future, whilst several of the nearly-men such as David Ferrer are starting to really challenge the big boys.

And last night, at the ATP World Tour Finals, Nadal was dismantled by an on-fire Djokovic. The former world number one was magnificent and, in the second set in particular, Nadal hardly had a chance on his serve, such was the Serb's supremacy.

Whilst the tennis wasn't exactly a nail-biter, it added another intriguing chapter to a rivalry that is arguably surpassing the classic rivalry of Roger and Rafa. Ok, we haven't quite had a Wimbledon Final of 2008 moment just yet, but this rivalry is far more unpredictable than the increasingly lopsided match-up between Federer and Nadal, and Djokovic seems to be the only player at the moment who can actually come close to challenging the king of clay at Roland Garros, as he demonstrated earlier this (boy did he want to win that match). Another thrilling sub-plot to a thrilling year.


Murray will be hungry for more success next year. Image: Tim Schofield.
Murray will be hungry for more success next year. Image: Tim Schofield.


If we did learn anything from the whole tournament, it is that tennis going into 2014 is looking very tasty indeed. The tournament itself won't be remembered for anything of note in years to come, but it did demonstrate that competition will be fierce next year.

Djokovic was the in-form player of the week and will be looking to carry that form into the New Year. With the Australian Open being the next Grand Slam, he has the perfect opportunity to create a little bit of history - never before in the Open Era has a man won the tournament 5 times.

Nadal, meanwhile, has no ranking points to defend until February, so he will be able to stretch his lead at the top even further. It will be interesting to see how he fairs Down Under - I don't think he quite has the ability or the strength-of-knees to regain the title he won in 2009, but such is the mental strength of this man, anything is possible. The French Open is his to lose (again), and after two very poor years at Wimbledon, he really should be seeking to put together a good run at SW19.

Murray will be coming back from an injury lay-off, hopefully in time for Australia. I would expect him to win a slam in 2014, such is the quality of his tennis. Which one he wins is the question. Wimbledon has been his most consistent tournament over the past few years, so he defending his title is actually quite a realistic ask.
After his worst season since 2002, can Federer ever recapture the form of yester-year? Image: mirsasha.
After his worst season since 2002, can Federer ever recapture the form of yester-year? Image: mirsasha.


Federer, meanwhile, has one last chance to prove that he can add to his incredible 17 slams. I think he has a chance, as he will hopefully be fitter this coming year, but he can no longer be consider among as the favourite for any of the four grand slams - an odd thought to say the least.

And what of the other challengers? Ferrer has been wonderful this year, and can expect to go far in most tournaments with the exception of Wimbledon, whilst Juan Martin Del Potro should realistically aim for at least one grand slam final. Then there are the younger players, such as Milos Raonic, coming through. How they fare will be fascinating.

So whilst there wasn't a great array of wonderful matches this year, the world of tennis can look forward to what promises to be another brilliant year in an increasingly unpredictable sport.

What a feast we look set to have on our plates!

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